Monday, February 17, 2014

Dealing With Difference of Opinion

Differences of opinion have always been part of the world scene, and Catholicism has not been spared. From the time of Jesus there have been plenty of verbal clashes, some of which have developed into great crises for the Church. We should not be surprised at this or see it as abnormal, but work always toward finding unity. To succeed in this difficult endeavor requires a willingness to communicate with those we disagree with. The Church, over the last 2000 years, has learned that lesson well. 

In a democracy, there is the freedom to express our opinions peacefully,  and expressions of conflicting opinions are all protected by law. What should not be condoned are acts of violence.

A journalist for the Catholic Times reports on two Masses that were said during which priests and lay Catholics gathered together to show dissatisfaction with the interference of the government with the presidential elections of 2012. Catholics, members of conservative civil groups, disrupted the Mass by yelling and fighting with those who were attempting to have them stop. At one of the Masses, when they began to interrupt the sermon, a fight broke out at the door of the church.  Chaos developed and, using abusive language, one of the group grabbed  the collar of a priest who was trying to break up the squabble and spun him around.

There are many ways of living peacefully with others, engaging in dialogue, trying to search for the truth together, the journalist noted, is one good way. Such communication is understood by all to start with a willingness to accept  truth and abandon prejudices and ignorance whenever they are clearly shown to exist in the process of communication. This will require humility and sincerity from everyone, which we should expect from Christians.

There are many who work with conflict resolution and transformation. In this age of enlightenment and the widespread dissemination of knowledge, it would seem that we should be open to ways of working toward a common understanding of truth, while decreasing the areas of conflict. But this requires engaging with others in searching for the truth. Religion may be one of the few areas where we have begun to speak to each other with respect, as we search for a better understanding of each others' position.

We are all familiar with the quote from Pope Paul VI, who said "If you want peace work for justice." Many of those who have difficulty with Catholicism go back in history to select events where the Church did not act in the way she wants to act today. Violence was a part of history and the Church was a part of that history. The Church has also learned a great deal from history and today it speaks forcibly about the need to desist from violence. The disruption at a Mass by Catholics, the journalist points out, is an affront to God and he hopes the Catholics responsible will come to see that such actions have no place in an ordered civil society, especially when perpetrated by Christians.            

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